How old was Jaden Smith when he starred in ‘The Pursuit Of Happyness’? Will Smith reveals nepotism concerns over casting his son

Will Smith opened up about Jaden Smith
Will Smith opened up about Jaden Smith's casting on 'The Pursuit of Happyness' (Instagram/@c.syresmith, @willsmith)

Bad Boys star Will Smith opened up about facing nepotism concerns over the casting of Jaden Smith in the 2006 hit film The Pursuit of Happyness. In a Wednesday, June 5 appearance on the Full Send podcast, Smith revealed that Jaden wasn't simply handed the role. Director Gabriele Muccino read 40 kids and was unable to settle for one before finding the right chemistry in Jaden.

The studio initially thought it was a bad idea to immediately cast Jaden so he was made to do reads along with other kids before they finally agreed that he was the perfect fit. Jaden Smith was 8 years old when he made the film, in which he played Christopher Gardner Jr., the son of Will Smith's Chris Gardner.

"He was just the best for it" Will Smith on Jaden Smith's casting in 'The Pursuit of Happyness'

During Wednesday's episode of the Full Send podcast hosted by the NELK Boys, Will Smith talked about his experience filming The Pursuit of Happyness. Smith revealed that he initially didn't even want to do the movie. He credited his manager James Lassiter's taste for pushing him toward the movie.

The actor said:

"He was doing most of the choosing back then. I did not want to make The Pursuit of Happyness. So, I looked at it and it was a really, really great story, right? But I was like, ‘Who wants to go to the movies to see a dude get a job in the ’80s?’ The movie’s about a guy who gets a job. Compared to Men in Black, I Am Legend?"

He added:

"It was a really great story. JL has exquisite taste. He said, ‘I promise you.’ I read [the script] and I loved it, I just didn’t think it had box-office viability,"

Pursuit of Happyness ended up grossing $307,127,625, according to IMDb. The film, which was based on a real story, followed Will Smith's Chris Gardner, a homeless struggling salesman as he endures a world of hardships to provide a better life for himself and his son, Christopher (Jaden Smith).


Jaden Smith was only 8 years old when he made his acting debut in the movie, where he portrayed a 5-year-old. During the podcast, Smith narrated:

"So we were reading kids, reading kids, reading kids. And Gabriele is an Italian artist and if it’s not exactly how he wants it he cannot survive… he’s super passionate. And he just couldn’t find the right chemistry. We literally read 40 kids."

One day, Will and Jaden were lying in bed as Will was looking through the screenplay when then-5-year-old Jaden Smith told him that he could "do that". Smith continued:

"I was like, ‘You can do what?’ And he’s like, 'Duh, play your son… I’m your son every day, daddy'."

When Will Smith took Jaden for a reading, Gabriele "teared up" and was sure that Jaden was the one. However, there was one more hurdle. Smith narrated:

"The studio felt like it was gonna look like I was just putting my son in a movie, and they’re like, ‘Please don’t. That’s gonna kill it,"

He added:

"So he did about four or five reads and we kept reading more kids, more kids and he was just the best for it. And, ultimately, the studio agreed."


Will Smith further recalled an incident during filming the movie when his young son taught him a lesson. Smith mentioned how his nose started to run during a scene alongside Jaden where he was trying to do his best acting. Smith immediately got frustrated as he thought that the take was ruined.

However, Jaden Smith just reached up and wiped Will's nose. Smith recalled his son being "so wide open" and "natural" while doing it. He said:

"It was a real lesson to watch a kid who doesn't know anything about it just live naturally in the moments."

Will Smith once again graced theatres with his presence with the fourth installment to the Bad Boys franchise, Bad Boys: Ride or Die starring himself and Martin Lawrence. The movie hit theaters across the country on Friday, June 7.

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Edited by Divya Singh
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